Opinion: Uganda’s Roads Are a Health Hazard, Immediate Action Needed


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Agaba Derrick

Many Ugandans happily indicate travelling as a hobby on their resumes. However, the current trends of Road Traffic Accidents (RTA’s) convince us to vote “no” to travelling in our country. The only choice we have is to wonder whether we have the right personnel behind Ugandan steering wheels.

We keep seeing motorists drive on pavements that are gazetted for pedestrians, these acts disqualify many of us from even walking along our roads. This coupled with news updates on the numbers of fellow countrymen perishing in RTA’s, officially qualifies travelling not a hobby on Ugandan roads.

When Ojara was travelling to Kampala in April 2014, little did he know that he could be involved in an RTA because the driver was driving over the speed limit and couldn’t prevent a head-on collision. He only gained consciousness while in an orthopedic hospital in Kumi, he incurred costs of up to USh 69million.

Thanks to a Gulu court ruling this year, he is set to receive $35,000 US dollars as compensation for the damages. Despite compensation, Ojara can no longer go to office, he can’t farm his land – let alone bend his knee or twist his ankle. His life now involves having to use crutches to walk with consistent pain as a reminder of the near fatal crash.

The 2018 Uganda Police Force crime report reveals that 29 fellow Ugandans are killed per every 100 crashes or 9 people killed and at least 17 injured on an average day in 2018 – this is supposedly the highest in East Africa. It is despite of the fact that the demise claims 5% of Uganda’s GDP or about $1.2 billion US dollars.

President Museveni’s government probably went to the bush to fight the enemy that was killing Ugandans, unfortunately, the “bazukulu” only read this as history from Mzee’s facebook posts. I am of a view, that this social media era shall never appreciate our governments’ efforts in fighting preventable deaths, simply because no week goes without reading a facebook post involving innocent civilians perishing in a RTA.

For instance, on the eve of one fatal bus accidents along Iganga-Kampala highway, Rebecca posted on Facebook saying “I now understand how precious life is, the lady who passed on was my friend” She added “the driver was moving very fast and over taking every motorist in front of him”

I always wonder, do we have the right people behind the steering wheels? What are the biggest causes of road traffic accidents in Uganda?

Police data shows that careless driving tops with 43% of the deaths, and together with reckless driving and careless pedestrians accounts for 88% of the crashes on Ugandan roads in 2018.

Our president is greatly committed to improving road infrastructure to stimulate economic and social development in the country. However, without safety embedded in this 21st century infrastructure, Uganda is doomed. My view is in line with Dr. Tegegn, the Uganda World Health Organization representative, he claims “road safety is not just a transport problem but an economic, health and social development problem.” It takes encouragement of employee participation in RTAs to develop a safety culture.

Surprisingly, one official at Prestige driving school, speaking on condition of anonymity said, “Our drivers are only taught how to move vehicles, there is nothing I can do since I have to meet a weekly target of clients”. Many of us possessing driving permits agree with this. In fact, the Road Safety Performance Report 2018 aligns with her experience, it says “the formal training that is given at driving schools largely addresses the practical manoeuvring of the vehicles and does not follow the training processes as specified in the national learner driving curriculum.”  This brings me back to my question, are our drivers qualified to be entrusted with lives of Ugandans?

Reckless driving continues to cost innocent Ugandans of their lives. It can have significant social and economic impacts on the individual, family and society. Therefore, having a safety culture at the fingertips of all Ugandan is the only way to go.

Our government must refocus, this time not to fight the enemy in the bush, but the enemy on our roads. Ensuring a road safety culture at everyone’s finger tips could be through; creating massive education campaigns that will ensure behavioral change similar to the HIV campaigns; assessing all driver training schools in the country to ensure they don’t produce half-baked personnel; and strengthening and/or expanding the emergency medical services.

Derrick Agaba Is a Student at Exceed institute of safety, management and technology

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